Biomimicry with Nicola Peel

, 20 June 2022
Biomimicry with Nicola Peel
Nicola Peel

By Emma Chaplin

Communications Officer

Environmentalist Nicola Peel will be leading a members’ walk in July at Woods Mill, where she will be discussing biomimicry. We caught up with her over the phone to find out a bit more about it.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work

I’m from Pulborough. I’ve spent the last 20 years working in the Ecuadorian Amazon as a ‘solutionist’ – focusing on finding solutions to today’s problems. For example, how to clean up messy oil spills. I set up a mycoremediation project to show how fungi could break down contamination left by the oil industry and I have helped over 200 families by building rainwater systems for them. I am a trustee for Rainforest Saver and for the past seven years, I’ve been running an agro-forestry project in the Amazon to prevent deforestation by regenerating the soil. We are currently looking at the incredible change in soil biodiversity from the results of our project.

Can you please explain what biomimicry is?

As biologist Janine Benyus puts it, we need to look to nature for inspiration for new inventions. She says it’s about, “Learning to live gracefully on this planet by consciously emulating life’s genius. It’s not really technology or biology; it’s the technology of biology. It’s making a fibre like a spider, or lassoing the sun’s energy like a leaf.”

Biomimicry covers aspects from communications to architecture, closed loop systems to materials design. Housing, transportation, renewal energies can all be improved. It’s all about how we copy nature’s efficiency. We desperately need to change the materials we’re currently using because we’re very inefficient. There is so much to learn.

Can you give some examples?

These are just a few of many:

Humans use toxic petrochemicals to glue things, whereas Mussels and Limpets (Slipper Limpets pictured below) stick to rocks using natural proteins as their own superglue.

Slipper Limpets
Slipper Limpets © Barry Yates

The way the Gherkin building in London was constructed, was by learning about the internal structure of the marine sponge, the Venus Flower basket.

Another example - to improve wind turbine efficiency – we can learn from whale’s fins, which don’t have a straight edge, they are wavy.

What lessons can we learn from nature?

There are a huge number of things. Biomimicry looks at materials, processes, functions and systems It is about learning to look at nature in a different way, learning from, not just learning about.

What will your members walk at Woods Mill entail?

We will become observers and look at some of the patterns and processes we find. It will be a walk and talk adventure, discussing some of the biomimetic principles in what we find locally whilst also discussing some of the amazing inventions which nature has inspired.

Find out more about Nicola and her work here

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